Friday, January 14, 2011

Sing You Home


First this week I get to read Marlyn Brant's book, Friday Mornings at Nine and she answered my questions.  Second, I was able to read Jodi Picoult's book Sing Me Home that isn't even due to be published until March.  You all know how her book My Sisters Keeper is on my top 10 list....well, this book didn't let me down.  Typical Jodi ....this book takes on some very powerful topics like no one can but Jodi.  This book took turns that I never even saw coming.


Every life has a soundtrack. All you have to do is listen.

Music has set the tone for most of Zoe Baxter’s life. There’s the melody that reminds her of the summer she spent rubbing baby oil on her stomach in pursuit of the perfect tan. A dance beat that makes her think of using a fake ID to slip into a nightclub. A dirge that marked the years she spent trying to get pregnant.

For better or for worse, music is the language of memory. It is also the language of love.

In the aftermath of a series of personal tragedies, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people—even those she loves and trusts most—don’t want that to happen.

Sing You Home is about identity, love, marriage, and parenthood. It’s about people wanting to do the right thing for the greater good, even as they work to fulfill their own personal desires and dreams. And it’s about what happens when the outside world brutally calls into question the very thing closest to our hearts: family.

Review:  Must-read (10 starfish!)
I can't believe how many twists and turns this book takes.  Never one to shy away from controversial issues, this time Jodi tackles gay rights, reproductive science, and the Christian right.  How is it possible to like a character at the beginning of the book, hate them in the middle and love them by the end?  Well Jodi did it for me this time in the character Max.  I felt so bad for Zoe and still am somewhat shocked at all the different directions her life took.  I find it interesting how "sinful" the charismatic pastor, Clive Lincoln and some of his followers turn out to be.  Through Vanessa we are introduced what it means to be gay in today’s world.  Amazing how all that comes together in one book.

I think this book would be a great for a book club selection; however, I think everyone would need to be open and tolerant to other's beliefs and opinions.  As mentioned this book contains controversial issues.  Even though My Sisters Keeper is still her #1 for me....this is definitely worth reading.

Thanks to Crazy Book Tours for given me the opportunity to review this wonderful book.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Friday Mornings At Nine

I was given the opportunity to review a wonderful book....Friday Mornings at Nine by Marilyn Brant.  Mrs. Brant was kind of enough to answer my questions as well....can you believe it!  I was so excited.


Every woman remembers her firsts: Her first kiss. Her first lover. And her first time contemplating an affair...

Each Friday morning at the Indigo Moon Café, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara meet to swap stories about marriage, kids, and work. But one day, spurred by recent e-mails from her college ex, Jennifer poses questions they've never faced before. What if they all married the wrong man? What if they're living the wrong life? And what would happen if, just once, they gave in to temptation...

Soon each woman is second-guessing the choices she's made—and the ones she can unmake—as she becomes aware of new opportunities around every corner, from attentive colleagues and sexy neighbors to flirtatious past lovers. And as fantasies blur with real life, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara begin to realize how little they know about each other, their marriages, and themselves, and how much there is to gain—and lose—when you step outside the rules...

My Review:  Must Read (10 Starfish out of 10!)
This book was great from beginning to end. I loved the three ladies (and the men in their lives) and their journey through the fall/winter. This is the perfect book to read while wrapped up in a blanket by fire (or on the beach). Without giving away too much, I am so happy where all three ladies ended up at the end of the book. Even though they are experiencing the same issue at different points of their marriage/family and end up making completely different choices from each other, the book has you wanting more until the very end. Oh how I wish I had a Friday morning coffee group! I highly recommend this book and can't wait to read other books by Marilyn Brant.  I bought her first book, According to Jane over the holidays and can't wait to start reading it. 

Interview with Mrs. Brant (seriously....can you believe it!):

1. Based on the last few pages of the book, it is apparent you belong to such a morning coffee group that meets regularly. I am going to assume that the three ladies in the book are not reflections of the other three ladies in your morning coffee group. How long have the four of you been meeting?

Thank you for not assuming that Joyce, Karen, Sarah and I are like ANY of the women in the book (!!), although there are probably bits of each of us that pop up in one character or another. Sarah and I first started getting together weekly almost six years ago, and she was the one who introduced me to Karen and Joyce shortly thereafter. Now, because of varying work schedules, all four of us manage to get together at the same time only about twice per month but will try to meet in person every week or so in pairs or trios. (The four of us just took a weekend roadtrip to visit Karen's mother's book club in Indiana, though, so it was like a 24-hour-long coffee date!) I will say, though, that one of the biggest differences between my friends and the women in the book are that the Friday Mornings at Nine characters needed to learn to be a lot more reflective about themselves. I think they make a fair bit of progress during the course of the novel, but I also think it's pretty clear that it's difficult for each of them to be a good friend -- or a good spouse, for that matter -- if they're not examining their needs and motivations with a clear eye. I've certainly been in group situations with other women where there were secrets and hidden agendas. Where the people involved still had so much personal stuff to work out that they couldn't be honest -- even with themselves -- about who they were and what they wanted out of their lives. By contrast, my friends and I, while we're hardly Zen-like creatures of calm and poise (although I can hear Sarah saying, "What?! I am too Zen-like!"), we tend to be pretty straightforward with each other and know each other well enough by now to trust that we have each others' best interests at heart. We know none of us would do anything intentional that might hurt another. That sort of trust allows for a great deal of candidness in our conversations, which, I'll be the first to admit, involve baked goods FAR more often than any subject someone might consider racy...

2. Do you relate to one of the ladies in the book (are you writing from experience)? What about one of the men in the story (past experiences!!)?
LOL!! For the record, let me just state openly: No, I do not have a crush on any of my male neighbors (not even the ones who do lots of yardwork), or my dentist, or a serious ex-boyfriend from college! I do, however, know what it's like to need closure on a relationship (sigh...) and how not getting it can be dangerous to another relationship. I also know how intoxicating it can be to be in a new environment and have people see you differently. Or to wonder "what if" about someone new that you're attracted to when you're at a low point in an old relationship. It doesn't have to be a marital situation that can crystalize these emotions, either. I remember being 16 and an AFS exchange student in Australia. I'd come from a co-ed public high school in small-town Wisconsin and, suddenly, I found myself at a private all-girls school in a city with 2 million people. I knew I was exactly the same person in Australia that I was at home, but my Aussie peers considered me someone "new and interesting" and, for the first time in my academic life, I was in a school environment where being a good student was seen as a positive behavior, rather than a terribly geeky one. Being looked at so differently, just by switching high schools (and continents) for a few months, really forced me to change the way I viewed myself. I realized being labeled "popular" or "unpopular" was a wildly subjective thing. Even so, it was hard to go back to my old high school after the exchange because I missed being treated as someone valuable. I missed being really SEEN by my peers. I couldn't wait to go to college! Similarly, if a woman is in a relationship and feeling unappreciated (like my character Bridget), then she goes to work in a new environment and, suddenly, people are paying attention to her and appreciating her unique skills, it's only human to get caught up in the excitement of that. It's easy for her to begin questioning her life/decisions before that job change...and to want to spend more time with her new work colleagues, for instance, than with her seemingly inattentive husband.

3. Do you write from an outline or just as the thoughts/plot unfolds in your mind?
Oh, I plot -- I am a BIG writing-structure girl! I'm a fan of Blake Snyder's "beat sheet" from his Save the Cat! books, and I was thrilled to be asked to guest post on the blog this year about the way I went about plotting the multiple storylines for Friday Mornings at Nine. (That's here, if anyone is curious about it: I need to know all the major turning points and events before I begin writing, but the actual dialogue and way the scenes play out is just something that unfolds while I write the first draft. I do my initial outline fairly quickly, but I'm unbelievably slow in writing each chronological scene. I'm happy if I write 2-3 new pages in a day.

4. Do you write daily? When you write is it for a set amount of time?
Yes. I mix and match the creative writing time with book-related research and promotional/marketing activities, though. I tend to do all three tasks for varying periods of time during the day. I work for most of the day, every weekday (while my son is at school) and at least half of the weekend, too. Novel writing is a very time consuming occupation!

5. Do you have a special place you write and if so, where?
Usually my office at home. It's the smallest bedroom in the house and, when we moved in, I just plunked my desk and computer against one wall and filled the rest of the room with my stacks and stacks of books. Sometimes I'll venture out to a coffee shop and write at a table while having lunch and going back for endless hazelnut and cream refills.

6. What is a typical day for you?
I start by checking email as soon as my son leaves for school. I visit some of the group blogs I'm a part of and leave comments there and on a few individual blogs of other writers. Then I try to get some work done on a manuscript of mine, either revision on a project that's due to my editor or the drafting a new novel. I take a quick break for lunch, and I try to fit in a 40-60 minute workout sometime during the afternoon or evening, but that's my work day in a nutshell. I stop when my son comes home and will make dinner for him and my husband. At night, sometimes I'll watch a TV show, but usually I do more writing or responding to emails, etc.

7. Do read other novels while writing? What are you currently reading?
I'm more likely to read non-fiction while I'm actually drafting a new book. When it gets to the revision stage, I devour lots of novels... I'm currently reading Thank You for All Things by Sandra Kring and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.

8. Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love reading, but that goes hand in hand with writing. So, it would have to be traveling. Something as simple as a family road trip for a weekend is wonderful, although it's been years since I've been in Europe. I'd love to show my son a few sites there. And I know my husband, who's a world history teacher, would enjoy going back, too. I also love, love, love listening to music. I could do that for hours every day if given the chance.

9. What are a few of your all time favorite books?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Breathing Room by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Love Story by Erich Segal, Never Change by Elizabeth Berg, Passing Through Paradise by Susan Wiggs and While I Was Gone by Sue Miller. But I could go on and on and on...

10. For those us that enjoyed this book so much, what is your next book about and when is it expected to be published?
I just finished writing my 3rd novel, A Summer in Europe, which will be out on November 29, 2011. It's kind of a modern story with tinges of E.M. Forster's A Room with a View. This woman gets a five-week trip to Europe as a 30th birthday gift from her eccentric aunt and, so, leaves her comfort zone to travel from Italy up to England with the members of her aunt's Sudoku and Mah-jongg club. There, she inevitably meets a few very interesting men (mmm!) and eats a lot of gelato and linguini (mmm, again!). And I just want to emphasize right here and now that the inclusion of these food items was *absolutely necessary* to the plot. MAJOR turning points happened as a result of my heroine devouring these things. And the fact that I had to eat them while I was writing these KEY scenes was equally I could get, you know, the tastes and textures just right. I'm all about the authenticity. *grin*
I can't wait to read A Summer in Europe this fall!  I think it sounds wonderful.  As soon as I finish According to Jane, you all will see my post here!

A very special thanks to Mrs. Brant for sending her book for review and taking the time to answer my questions above.  I truly appreciate it.

Thanks to all you for blogging by!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Top Ten Tuesdays....on Thursday!

As hard as I tried, I could not find the time to participate in one of my favorite weekly questions.  This weeks questions.....What are the top ten books I resolve to read in 2011?  This is a perfect question, and I am only listing books that have been on my bookshelf forever. 

1.  Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz.  I have had this on my bookshelf since it came out in March 2010.  I LOVE Lisa Lutz and the Spellmans series, so why didn't I read this in March?  I was swamped and it got buried on my bookshelf.  UGH!

2.  Safe Harbor by Nicholas Sparks.  I always buy his books, but seem to be about six months behind in reading them.

3.  Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City by Holy Denham.  I read the first book, Holly's Inbox and loved it, but than again, I love chick lit.

4.  The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell.  Who doesn't love Carrie in Sex in the City?  Again, chick lit!

5.  The Daughters by Joanna Philbin.  I think this is going to be a great teen/chick lit.  I just realized that the second one in the series was published in November 2011....The Daughter: Break the Rules.  Off to Borders it is!

6.  Runway by Meg Cabot.  I have had this book for awhile too.  I love Meg Cabot (queen of chick lit) and the Airhead series is typically Meg....easy to read, funny story, true chick lit.

7.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  Definitely not chick lit!  I have wanted to read this since Mari at Bookworm with a View talked about it last year and my sister couldn't believe I have never read it. 

8.  Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich.  I absolutely LOVE the Stephanie Plum series (Spellman series by Lisa Lutz is the style, but different situation).  Why haven't I read this yet?????  See #1 above.

9.  The Walk by Richard Paul Evans.  I have always enjoyed his books.  When I lived in Dayton, I would see him at an annual book signing and have all his books (except the last two) signed (and personalized) by him.  He is such a down to earth, good guy.  I enjoy the meaning behind his books.

10.  Tie between Mini Shopaholic and Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.  Another one of my favorite chick lit authors.  I can't believe that I have Twenties Girl on my bookshelf since 2009.  What is wrong with me?  Haven't gotten my latest fill of Becky Bloomwood....where are my priorities?

I could continue this list all day long!  I have so many books that I want to read in 2011 - now to find the time!

Top Ten Tuesday is sponsored my The Broke and Bookish. Every Tuesday they ask book reviewers to answer your top ten to a question. Go check out there site to participant.